There’s practice and there’s playing. A new Princeton study is being put up against Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘eponymous’ 10,000 hour rule of practice before someone achieves ‘outlier’ status. The new Princeton study says ‘deliberately practicing’ a skill contributes just a fraction of the total of performance.
But something rang false about the two opposing views so I checked back at what Gladwell said about ‘practice’ and I see there are two different meaning of practice here. The new study is talking about ‘practice sessions’ and Gladwell is talking about ‘live game sessions’. 10,000 hours of practice amounts to 4.7 years (8 hours a day and 261 days a year) and it jives with the example of the Beatles that Gladwell uses to illustrate his rule. Between 1960 and 1964, as John Lennon recounts it, the band was able to fit in a continuous streak of 270 days of gigs in a year and a half in Germany alone. That’s quite an achievement for a nascent band trying to make it and it helped contribute to the 10,000 hours over those 4 years, at times doubling the hours other band would stay on stage.
The new study says that 10,000 hours of ‘deliberate practice’, in other words, drills, will improve your performance by 4% at education and 26% at games. If you spend 8 hours on school work each day, another 8 hours will make just a marginal improvement to your grades (who spends 8 hours at school work in the first place)? If you spend 8 hours playing at games, another 8 hours will make quite an improvement to your acumen – but games are different then school work, they become predictable after a while.
Gladwell’s 10,000 hours is ‘really’ game-time where the Prince study might be about practice-sessions; you can see how there are so much confusion in pop writing about this; game-time, practice sessions, gamers and players.
In professions, the Princeton Study says putting in 16 hour work days will just improve your acumen by 1%. This works out to mean, if you are in a situation like the Beatles you need to put in 8 hours of ‘real’ game-time, but if you already have a steady gig, it is pointless to add another 8 hours of ‘drills’.
In total, it takes 4.7 years of work to achieve Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. If you heap another 8 hours on top of your full-time job, the return diminishes rapidly that it only adds 1% to your ability.
In Hustle , by Neil Patel, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Jonas Koffler, the book everyone’s talking about. Those 10,000 hours is essential but not how to succeed as an entrepreneur. As they say, from point A to point B, 10,000 hours makes you an expert. But in being an entrepreneur, you are in practicality, going from point B back to point A – meaning you start to rely on your own expertise. If you do not have those first 4.7 years of ‘real game-time’, but only 5,000 hours of it, you will be a lesser entrepreneur to your competitor with the full 10,000 hours.